AC34’s Impact on Sailing

October 17, 2013 § 5 Comments

Was AC34 a success? Larry said it changed everything. And the sailing media frenzy wouldn’t have been bigger had Miley twerked from Oracle’s aft rail.

But the early results are trickling in, and measured on its impact on public interest in our favorite activity, this America’s Cup barely registered.

If you were going to try to learn more about sailing after seeing an AC34 race, you’d google “sailing.” So to find out how many people did, let’s look at Google Trends based on the word “sailing”.

Google Trends: "sailing"

Google Trends: “sailing”

The persistent downward trend in sailing is widely known and many good folks are doing their best to reverse it. But wouldn’t you expect an uptick at the end of 2013 when the AC34 was happening, followed by new subsequent interest? Focus on the past 12 months:

Google Trends: "Sailing", 2013

Google Trends: “Sailing”, 2013

That blip (A) in September is the news of Oracle’s win.

Now compare the last three years. 2013 is down from 2012 and 2011. The spike (C) in 2012 was the Olympics.

Google Trends, "sailing", 2013, 2012, 2011

Google Trends, “sailing”, 2013, 2012, 2011

I draw three conclusions from these data:

1.) Youtube doesn’t inspire participation any more than cable TV or broadcast. A few people buy tennis rackets right after Wimbledon, but the long term trend in the sport is unaffected. Moreover, people who #gosailing turn off their screens to do it.

2.) Old sailors are the majority of AC watchers, and our numbers are tanking. The opportunity was to engage new sailors, and it didn’t happen.

3.) Organizers and sponsors never understood the Facebook generation’s sailing aspirations and they either missed or deliberately dissed the new demographic that is leading a #sailingrevolution today.

Or, perhaps, it was how it appeared: an entertainment event; a spectacle meant to make viewers, as opposed to a teaching moment designed to inspire sailors.

But hey, those boats were awesome! Gimme somuthat trickle down.

Let’s #GoSailing in Denver. Seriously.

March 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m very excited to be speaking at this year’s Spirit of Sailing Gala, the annual fundraiser for Community Sailing of Colorado. It’s a worthy program, offering sailing scholarships and outreach and with a reputation as a leader in adaptive sailing. And I’m excited meet co-presenter Jen French, a Paralympics silver medalist and the author of the new book On My Feet Again; My Journey Out of the Wheelchair Using Neurotechnology.

The Gala will be held at The Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver on April 20, 2013 beginning at 6:00 PM. You can still get tickets here.

As a bonus, CSC will be hosting two sidebar events. Jen will be telling stories from her book at Craig Hospital on Friday, April 19 from 6:00-7:30 pm.

And here is a flyer for the Sailing Town Hall on Sunday April 21st at 11am, a meeting for folks that would like to help more people find sailing in their lives. I hope to see you there!

Saving Sailing Town Hall Meeting

Sailing isn’t a sport

August 16, 2012 § 20 Comments

Sailing isn't a sport

Look it up. According to my dictionary, a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” And while many sailors I know will say that they enjoy racing sailboats, sailing is so much more than just a lowly sport.

When was the last time you saw tennis played in a pelting, thundering rain squall?

Sailors do it all the time.

When was the last time a basketball player studied emergency and rescue procedures to keep fellow teammates safe and secure?

When was the last time you saw soccer players standing by quietly for hours and sometimes days, waiting for mother nature to join the game?

When was the last time you saw a hockey player invite grandma onto the ice?

When was the last time you saw a quarterback use a star to navigate, the moon to light the field, or pause to gaze upon the aurora borealis during a game?

When was the last time you saw a sprinter stay on the field for hours and hours after the race just to be on the field?

And when was the last time you heard any of these sports-people say that they would play to the very end?

Sailors do it all the time.

No, sailing isn’t a sport. Sport should be so lucky.

– Nicholas Hayes, 2012

Olympians need you to #GoSailing

August 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Olympic sailing success depends on a robust intergenerational recreational sailing population. Period. These data confirm it.

Recreational Sailing and Olympic Medals

After popularity grows, we earn more medals. Soon after popularity falls, we earn fewer.

If you compare the number of recreational sailors in the US to the number of medals earned per recreational sailor, you learn that one short generation (15-25 years) after sailing was at its peak popularity in the US, the US was fielding its most talented Olympic sailing teams. Soon after sailing began to fall in popularity, we began to perform more inconsistently, and eventually, we struggled to represent in international competition. Sure, some individuals have been stand-outs, but broadly, our Olympic team needs a much stronger foundation. And sadly, these data confirm that success takes a longer time to cultivate than failure.

Medals vs sailors

It’s a bit easier to see the relationship by using polynomial trend lines to smooth the data.

Granted, we outperformed between 2000 and 2008 in terms of medals earned per recreational sailor, due, in part, to hangover effects: many Olympians take part in more than one of the games and modern professional training got more from some athletes. But this also means that in those odd years, we were effectively concentrating the most skill in the fewest people. If you had to invent a formula for eventual collapse of a team, that would be it.

So this year’s medal shut-out was to be expected.

The way to earn more Olympic sailing medals is to build at the base; to share sailing broadly with as many people at the local level as we can reach. #GoSailing.

Unlike Any Other Sport

April 3, 2012 § 2 Comments

Start Sailing Now

A version of this article is featured in Spinsheet’s Start Sailing Now brochure.

If you want to stump your sports-minded friends at a party, ask them these trivia questions:

  1. What is the only sport in which an American family team has won an Olympic gold medal?
  2. Who was on the team?

If you are a sailor, your friends may guess the sport, but they probably won’t be able to name the athletes. Father and son Paul and Hilary Smart won a gold medal for the U.S. in 1948, sailing in the Star class. It’s a family feat not since repeated, in any sport, summer or winter.

If you want to further dumbfound your landlubbing friends, ask:

  1. Has any other family team of any nationality ever won Olympic gold?
  2. Who was it, and in what sport?

You’ll get nothing.

It happened in sailing, of course. Charles James Rivett-Carnac and his wife Frances won the gold medal for Great Britain in 1908 sailing their 7-meter. Today, Charles remains the oldest Brit to have won an Olympic medal in any sport. He was fifty-five.

Here’s the point. Sailing, unlike any other activity, is both age and gender agnostic, even, arguably, at its pinnacle. It is unique as the one great outdoor experience done recreationally and competitively by parents and kids and husbands and wives for over a century.

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